This Nov. 8, one of the most important issues facing voters in California is the continued funding of public education.
Of course, all the media attention will rightfully be on the outcome at the top of the ticket. The election of Hillary Clinton as the first woman president of the United States ― breaking the toughest of glass ceilings while repudiating the politics of hate, fear and misogyny – will be much to celebrate. A huge second win will be Democratic control of the Senate, especially when we elect Kamala Harris as California’s first African-American female senator.
But the continued funding of public education through Proposition 55 will have a profound impact on our students and our members. Prop 55 continues the most progressive elements of Prop 30 passed by California voters in 2012. The wealthiest 2 percent of California were asked to pay a bit more in personal income tax, and Prop 55 simply extends that for 12 more years.
If voters don’t pass Prop 55, public education will once again face the massive cuts and layoffs we encountered during the Great Recession. Analysts have estimated we could face up to $4 billion dollars in cuts. But we have the power to prevent that by passing Prop 55.
During the Great Recession our economy was devastated, not just education. Jobs and homes were lost and whole communities were destroyed. Our schools lost more than $50 billion in funding. Not just in K-12 but community colleges were hurt as well.
Thanks to Prop 30, which the CFT helped to spearhead originally through our work on the Millionaires Tax, the bleeding stopped. While our schools continue to be underfunded, education and our economy are in much better shape – for now. But not passing Prop 55 threatens this progress.
Prop 55 will provide up to $8 billion additional dollars a year into public education and it will mean that Californians will have voted to have nearly 20 years of progressive taxation-that’s not only historical but something of which we can be very proud.
No doubt we face serious challenges: a massive teachers’ shortage, per pupil spending and class size averages far below the national average, and charter school money that threatens to siphon money away from district schools and reshape Sacramento.
This past year we were successful in defeating two lawsuits, Vergara v. California and Doe v. Antioch, aimed at destroying teacher rights and institutionalizing tests scores as the driving force in public education-in essence substituting test scores for the profit-loss statement of the market place.
While passing Prop 55 is not an antidote to the anti-public education narrative still being promoted by the billionaires it nevertheless reaffirms that voters believe in public schools and want more done to provide a quality education for our students.